Monday, January 31, 2011

Army Spc. Omar Soltero

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Omar Soltero, 28, of San Antonio, Texas

Spc Soltero was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Jan. 31, 2011 in Wardak province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.

A San Antonio family is mourning the loss of a son who was killed in combat in Afghanistan.

Relatives of Army Spc. Omar Soltero, 28, were coping Tuesday with the notification that Soltero died Monday from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with a roadside bomb in Wardak province in central Afghanistan.

“From when he was a little kid, he said when he turned 18 he wanted to join. He wanted to fight the bad guys,” said his father, Gustavo Soltero.

He said his son, one of four children, enlisted about 10 years ago and the family relocated here from California eight years ago. The family's notification of the death “was like in the movies,” Soltero said. “When they arrived to tell us, all you have to do is look at them and you know.”

“He loved his country. That's about all there is to say,” the father said as relatives from Texas, California and Mexico began gathering at the family's Northeast Side home.

He added that his son was in a relationship with a female soldier and they had two children. Soltero leaves behind two kids and one of them is only 1.5 years-old. "His mom tried to tell them he's in heaven now," said Adrian of the mother of Soltero's children. "He was a hero," said Adrian. "He did what he had to do to serve his country."

His son sometimes mentioned the dangers he faced in Afghanistan, “but he still wanted to be there,” Soltero said. “I never imagined this,” the father said.

His family says Omar never wanted anyone to be concerned about his safety. "He said, 'Don't worry, I'll be back,'" his younger brother Adrian said. "That was the last thing he said (before deploying.)"

Adrian translated for his parents, Gustavo and Maria. Maria said Omar always told her not to worry about any problems and always reassured her, "It's okay mom."

Adrian said Omar loved track and cross country in high school and made friends easily.

"If you shook his hand, he took you as a friend," he said.

Omar was one of four children and had two young boys of his own. His family says he was a good father and was planning to come home on leave in May for his 29th birthday.

Adrian says Omar served two tours in Kosovo, but wanted to avoid Afghanistan because of the violence there.

"I think out of all my brothers, I looked up to him the most," Adrian said. "He always looked after me because his older brothers, my older brothers, always looked after him, so he felt like it was his responsibility to look after me."

Omar Soltero was the 18th casualty in Afghanistan — and the first in 2011 — to call San Antonio home.

U.S. Army Spc. Omar Soltero was a 28-year-old San Antonio native assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment’s Task Force Warrior, when he died during an improvised explosive device attack while on a dismounted patrol in the Tangi area. Soltero was working out of Combat Outpost Tangi under the operational control of Co. C, 2nd Bn., 4th. Inf., while deployed in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army 1st Sgt. John Mickle, first sergeant for TF Warrior’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company from Newton, Iowa, called Soltero “an inspiring young Soldier with the ability to accomplish any mission tasked.” He said Soltero was “always in the front (and) always ready.”

Mickle cited Soltero as an example for all Soldiers to follow. “His unique smile, and kindness toward all he knew, will be missed by all Task Force Warriors. (He was) a great Soldier and (an) even better friend.”

Sgt. James King, a Pawling, N.Y., native and sniper team leader for HHC, 2nd Bn., 4th Inf., OPCON to Co. C, said it is not an easy mission for him to put into words the impact Soltero had on his team. However, King’s poignant accounting of Soltero and his significance proves both he and Soltero were capable of “soldiering up” when faced with a tough task in a combat zone during a time of war.

"I can say simply that he was a great man to have watching your back and a true example of what it means to be a soldier."

Soltero’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal; Purple Heart; Army Achievement Medal, with four Oak Leaf Clusters; Good Conduct Medal; National Defense Service Medal, with Bronze Service Star; Afghan Campaign Medal, with Star Device; Kosovo Campaign Medal, with Bronze Service Star; Global War on Terror Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, with Numeral 2; Army Service Ribbon; Overseas Service Ribbon, with two Bronze Service Stars; Armed Forces Reserve Medal, with Mobilization Device; NATO Medal, with two Bronze Service Stars; Ranger Tab; Combat Infantryman Badge; Expert Infantryman Badge; Parachutist Badge; and Air Assault Badge.

Army Spc. Omar Soltero was killed in action on 1/31/11.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Army Spc. Joshua R. Campbell

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Joshua R. Campbell, 22, of Bennett, Colo.

Spc Campbell was assigned to the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Jan. 29, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Spc. Shawn A. Muhr.

James Campbell, of Bennett, Colo., said his son will be remembered for his sunny disposition and willingness to help other people who needed help.

Campbell was a truck driver on his first deployment with two years in the Army, his father said. Fort Bragg officials said he deployed in October.

"He loved it, the camaraderie, the purpose, protecting his country," his father said. "He was extremely patriotic. He'd do anything for anybody. He was a good man."

Campbell entered the Army in February 2008 and was assigned to the 82nd Sustainment Brigade in December 2008. Campbell's past duty assignments included the 126th Medium Truck Company of the 330th Movement Control Battalion of the 82nd Sustainment Brigade.

His awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal-Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon. Campbell was awarded the following awards posthumously: the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Spc. Campbell is survived by his parents James and Tamara Campbell of Bennett and three brothers - Justin, 26 of Ohio, James, 25 of NC and Jonathan 23 of CO.

Army Spc. Joshua R. Campbell was killed in action on 1/29/11.

Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr, 26, of Coon Rapids, Iowa

Spc. Muhr was assigned to the 264th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Jan. 29, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed was Spc. Joshua R. Campbell.

COON RAPIDS — The awful news itself came last weekend. The media, TV, print and radio, arrived Monday at the Coon Rapids home of David Muhr, a Purple-Hearted Vietnam War veteran who just lost a son in Afghanistan.

David Muhr should have been celebrating his birthday Monday. He turned 63. But he was mourning a son, sitting at a kitchen table on Fifth Avenue in Coon Rapids, fielding call after call, listening to the good intentions and condolences from well-wishers and answering the same questions, over and over, from reporters.

No words, he despaired, could change the cold truth.

“We found out Saturday evening at 6:30,” said Shawn’s brother Aaron Muhr, 37, a Coon Rapids resident who works in the wood shop at Pella Corp. in Carroll.

A day before, at David Muhr’s Coon Rapids house, a digital photo rotator displayed on a coffee table broke, eerily locking in on a photo of Shawn Muhr taken after he completed his basic training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. It’s still there, that photo, with a younger Muhr, an Army-chiseled physique apparent, staring out into the living room at his family and gathered visitors.

“We are a really close-knit family,” Aaron Muhr said. “We are all binding together with open arms and open hearts.”

Nicknamed “Ox” for a physical strength at which his siblings and high school coaches marveled, Shawn Muhr had been in the Army since 2004, having followed a family tradition of service in the military.

“Our whole family, every member, has served in the military,” Aaron Muhr said. “He was there to serve his country and help out. He loved to help out other people.”

Aaron is a former National Guardsman. Shawn’s grandfathers — Russell Boston and William Muhr, both of the Coon Rapids area — served in World War II. His uncles Mike Willenborg of Carroll and William Muhr of Coon Rapids were in the Reserves. An aunt, Christine Mickels, now living in Delaware, served in the Air Force, and another uncle, James Boston of Coon Rapids, was in the Army.

David Muhr still has shrapnel in his body from a grenade in Vietnam. Some of its in his heel. Some more in his feet. The 1966 Kuemper Catholic High School graduate has owned Coon Rapids Repair for 29 years. The business deals with engines of many sizes, from the ones that power cars and trucks to those in lawnmowers.

Shawn Muhr loved that business, Aaron said.

And he was mechanically inclined — which got him into some fantastically amusing trouble with law enforcement in his early teen years.

Shawn Muhr may be the only person in Coon Rapids history to get a speeding ticket on a lawnmower — for doing somewhere around 35 mph in a 25 zone, joked his brother.

“He had gotten a hold of a lawnmower and souped up the engine,” Aaron Muhr said.

As entertaining as that is, Aaron quickly moved to another anecdote. He remembers his brother carrying a dishwasher across a yard to a pickup, single-handedly.

“He wasn’t afraid to show off his strength,” Aaron said. “That was like nothing for him.”

Muhr’s first nickname was “Pugz,” said his sister, Erica Muhr-Burris who lives in Scranton and works at Anderson Shoe Store in Carroll.

Shawn and Erica exchanged voice-mails on Jan. 12, the day he left Coon Rapids to return to service.

“Hey, I love you, goodbye, can’t wait for you to come back home,” Erica told her brother.

They couldn’t part in person, she said.

“We’re so close we can’t say ‘goodbye’ to each other,” Erica said. “That’s always been a routine. That’s what we did.”

Shawn Muhr was a 2003 graduate of Coon Rapids-Bayard High School, where he was known as a top-notch wrestler and a football player. He placed sixth in his weight class in the 2003 Iowa State High School wrestling tournament and he held a school record for recording 30 pins in one wrestling season. He joined the Army six years ago after spending about a year-and-a-half working in a meat packing plant in Council Bluffs.

Word of the Iowa soldier's death spread quickly through this western Iowa community of 1,300 over the weekend after military casualty representatives visited the Muhr home about 6 p.m. Saturday. News of the soldier's death was announced at Sunday worship services here.

The U.S. Army has not officially confirmed Muhr’s death, but word spread quickly through this western Iowa community of 1,300 people after military casualty officials visited the Muhr home at about 6 p.m. Saturday. News of the soldier’s death was announced at worship services here on Sunday.

“He had found his niche in the military. He was really happy about being in the military and serving his country,” said Bill Orlano, a guidance counselor at Coon Rapids-Bayard High School.

Family members recalled Muhr today as a warm, friendly young man who was generous to a fault. He had returned home on leave from Afghanistan just after Christmas and returned to the combat zone on Jan. 12.

Muhr’s sister, Erica Muhr-Burris, of Scranton, who is 30, described the fallen soldier as “My biggest little brother….He was the happiest kid you will ever meet. He was my protector.”

The Muhr family has a tradition of military service; David Muhr is a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War who is a leader of the American Legion post here, and his brother, Aaron, served in the Iowa National Guard.

Army Spc. Shawn A. Muhr was killed in action on 1/29/11.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr., 30, of Wading River, N.Y.

SFC Venetz was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, N.C.; died Jan. 28, 2011 in Parwan province, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained in a non-combat-related incident.

WASHINGTON--A Special Forces soldier with ties to Virginia died January 28th in a non-combat related incident in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The cause of his death is still under investigation.

Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz, Jr., 30, was a Special Forces engineer sergeant assigned to Co. A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.

Venetz, a native of Long Island, N.Y., enlisted in the Army in February, 2001, in Prince William County, Va., as an infantryman, and attended Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Ga.

His first assignment was with the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment out of Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned to a scout platoon. During this time he deployed to Cuba and twice to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In 2007, Venetz volunteered to become a Special Forces Soldier. He graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in March, 2009, and was assigned to A Co, 2nd Bn., 7th SFG (A).

His other military education includes the Warrior Leaders Course, Basic Noncommissioned Officer Course, Combat Lifesaver Course, Basic Airborne Course, Army Sniper Course, and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course.

His awards and decorations were numerous. They included two Bronze Star Medals, one with valor, two Purple Heart Awards, four Army Commendation Medals, with two for valor, Army Good Conduct Medal , National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Meritorious Unit Award, Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

Wading River soldier killed in Afghanistan

Anthony Venetz Jr. and Jonathan Keller grew up on the same block in Wading River. They were one grade apart in high school. And they both served the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

Now, almost two years to the day apart, they have both suffered the same grim fate; Sgt. 1st Class Venetz died Friday in a non-combat related incident in Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Venetz, 30, was a Special Forces engineer sergeant assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Force Group, according to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

The cause of his death is still under investigation, Pentagon officials said.. He is survived by his wife and two children.

Spc. Keller, who graduated from Shoreham-Wading River High School in 1998, one year before Sgt. Venetz had graduated, died Jan. 24, 2009, nine months after suffering a gunshot wound in a firefight.

Jerry McGrath, a retired teacher who also lives on Long Pond Road, remembers both Sgt. Venetz and Spc. Keller from their days at Wading River Elementary School.

Mr. McGrath said he was shocked to hear the news of Sgt. Venetz’s death.

“I felt so bad when I heard about it the other day,” Mr. McGrath said Monday night. “I remember Anthony as a great kid.”

Mr. McGrath said he contacted Sgt. Venetz’s sister, Erica, over the weekend. She said the family was grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.

Sgt. Venetz enlisted in the Army in February, 2001, in Prince William, Va. as an infantryman, and attended Basic Combat Tralning and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Benning, Ga., according to the USASOC news service. His first assignment was with the 1st Battalion, 22nd infantry Regiment out of Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned as a scout platoon, and during which time he was deployed to Cuba once and Iraq twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Venetz volunteered to become a Special Forces soldier in 2007, graduated from Special Forces Qualification Course in 2009 and was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Airborn Group in Fort Bragg, N.C., Army officials said.

Mr. Venetz’s other military education includes the Warrior Leaders Course, Basic Noncommissioned OHTCGT Course, Combat Lifesaver Course, Basic Airbome Course, Army Sniper Course, and the Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape Course, according to the USASOC.

Sgt. 1st Class Venetz, Jr. is survived by his wife Debbie and two young children Alexa and Jace (no ages given) currently in Killeen, TX; his father and step mother Tony (Sr) and Karen Venetz of Aiken, SC; his mother Marion Venetz of Wading River, NY., as well as his two sisters Erika Zowd and Andrea Eisgruber both of Baltimore, MD.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Venetz Jr was killed in a non-combat related incident on 1/28/11.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leslie D. Williams

Remember Our Heroes

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leslie D. Williams, 36, of Juneau, Alaska,

TSgt Williams was assigned to the 4th Maintenance Group, Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; died Jan. 25, 2011 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, due to a non-combat-related incident.

A former Juneau resident who died last week while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom was a much-loved and admired coach.

Leslie D. Williams was 36 years old when he died during a non-combat-related incident at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Williams had been assigned to the 4th Maintenance Group at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. A technical sergeant, he was deployed as part of the 4th Fighter Wing.

After leaving Juneau, Williams became well known for his commitment as an airman and his dedication to youth athletics in his new home in Goldsboro, N.C. A part of the Rosewood community, he was well-known as a coach for the Rosewood Little Eagles.

His role with the community went beyond authority figure; he was known for his strengths as a mentor and a friend. Outpourings of support and wishes emerged among his home community, where his name and face depicted integrity.

Parents of his team’s players expressed their feelings to his hometown’s newspaper, the Goldsboro News-Argus. He meant a lot to the youths and inspired them. In the small community, he was more than a grown-up face to them, he was someone they were used to seeing and looked up to. When Williams went to Afghanistan, his support and camaraderie continued through his Facebook page.

His assistant, Tech. Sgt. Kevin Getchell, told the News-Argus how his friend’s work with the children was an inspiration and how much the kids loved him.

“He’s very upset. He cried all night. At 9 years old, it’s hard to understand that Les isn’t coming back,” said Angie Lancaster, whose son, Trent, was one of his players. “I mean, it’s hard for me. Those boys, they loved him. They respected him. He was so special to them.”

Retired Master Sgt. Brian Volk told the paper he was as much of an inspiration to the others off the field, saying, “Les was one of those guys that made everyone around him a better person. He forever made a positive impact on everyone he touched.”

Details of his death have not been released. A news release from the Air Force only revealed Williams died in a shooting incident on Jan. 25.

“Today we lost a member of our family under unfortunate circumstances,” said Col. Todd Canterbury, vice commander of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing, in a release. “We share in the sorrow felt by his loved ones, and we must not forget the valuable contribution he made to his country and the impact he has left on our organization.”

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and Army Criminal Investigation Command are investigating the incident.

His wife, Tonya, received a personal message from her overseas husband, during a special honor little league game just a few months ago.

It began, “To my loving wife Tonya. I may be thousands of miles apart in Afghanistan, but my heart is still in your hands.”

Burial services for Williams will be held in North Carolina at a date and time yet to be determined. A memorial service will be held in Juneau at a date and time to be determined.

Williams is survived by his wife, sons - Christian and Phoenix, mother Sue Ann Lindoff, five sisters, two brothers and numerous other relatives.

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Leslie D. Williams was killed in a non-combat related incident on 1/25/11.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler, 23, of Chadbourn, N.C.

Pfc. Sinkler was assigned to the 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, Fort Richardson, Alaska; died Jan. 20, 2011 in Baghlan province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked her unit with a rocket propelled grenade.

Sinkler, 23, from Chadbourn, N.C., was the second female soldier and third overall from the 109th Transportation Co., the "Rough Riders," to die in combat since the 150-soldier unit deployed in July. A gunner for the mission, she was in the exposed turret of an armored MRAP vehicle when it was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, the Army said. Three other soldiers in the vehicle were uninjured.

Sinkler was married. She arrived at Fort Richardson in January 2010 after joining the Army in August 2009. Her family has been notified of her death, the Army said.
Sinkler, a motor transport operator, was in a convoy en route to Forward Operating Base Killaghey in Baghlan Province on Wednesday when the attack occurred about 11:40 p.m. Afghanistan time. She died less than four hours later.

I am not sure how I ever could function as a journalist before the inception of Facebook.

I first joined the Social Network in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. Being that nearly every horrific thing has ties to Tampa, I signed up hoping to find students at the school from our area. I don’t think I did, but it has been a powerful reporting tool for me ever since.

Which is why, when I learned about 23-year-old Amy Sinkler, the first woman to die in combat this year, I turned to Facebook to see what I could find out about her. As is usually the case, the Social Network did not let me down.

I learned this much about Sinkler. She loved and missed her husband. She apparently recently found her father and her sister was about to have a baby. Her last post came Tuesday at 9:03 a.m. She wrote about how she knew what her sister was having a girl. “ok u had on ur page its a gurl lol,” she wrote.

Two days later, Sinkler was killed when insurgents attacked her unit with a rocket propelled grenade. Later that day, Sinkler’s friends began leaving heartfelt messages on her “wall.”


Brittany Rahman, Sinkler's best friend going back to their childhood days reported this: She was a good person, very strong-minded. Some people try to hold back their feelings or their thoughts. That's not Amy. She's going to tell you exactly how she's feeling.

The girls graduated high school one year apart. After graduation they wanted to see the world and decided to go talk to a recruiter. We were like, 'Hey let's try it, just to see the world, just try something different'. "Basically, we were in our hometown forever. We grew up there, didn't travel much, so we wanted to get away and see different stuff.

Rahman said Sinkler liked her experience in the Army and was proud when she completed her training. Sinkler married her high school boyfriend, Doug Sinkler, last year, and they settled in at the post just north of Anchorage, she said. She bought a nice little car, so she got stable. I think she actually liked Alaska, but she wasn't there much longer.

Army Pfc. Amy R. Sinkler was killed in action on 1/20/11.

Marine Sgt. Jason G. Amores

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Sgt. Jason G. Amores, 29, of Lehigh Acres, Fla.

Sgt Amores was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; died Jan. 20, 2011 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

In the late 90s while he was in Lehigh Senior High School, Sgt. Jason G. Amores was affectionately called "Mowgli." He played the saxophone and was an active member of the Lehigh Senior High School's Marching Band.

Amores, 29, was killed in Afghanistan last Thursday, Jan. 20, when he stepped on an explosive device in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was serving in the Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.

The State Department said he was killed while conducting combat operations. It was his third deployment in Afghanistan and he had been deployed to Iraq twice before.

On Saturday, Amores' family, his wife, Jennifer, his parents, Beverly and Curtis Middleton and his brother, Jeremiah, and other family members were waiting for a 3 p.m. flight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware from Afghanistan.

His father, Curtis, was the first editor of The Lehigh Acres Citizen and later was publisher of the old Lehigh Acres News Star. Sometime after he left The Star, he moved away from Lehigh.

Today, the Marine's parents live in Olive Branch, Miss., where Middleton has retired, and is writing a book.

Reached Saturday afternoon just minutes before the flight arrived, Middleton said that the family was very upset as expected, but that they were proud of their son who had served his country so valiantly.

Amore's wife, Jennifer, and their two children had been making their home at Camp Pendleton, Calif., while her husband was in combat in Afghanistan. She is from the Lehigh Acres area.

His brother, Jeremiah, was also in Dover Saturday for the arrival of his brother's body. Jeremiah and Jason had joined the U.S. Marine Corps on the same day in 2004, and had gone through basic training and advanced training together. The two brothers were very close. Jason graduated from Lehigh Senior High School in 1999.

Jeremiah left the Marine Corps and moved to Ohio, while his brother decided to re-up for more service to his country.

Middleton told The Citizen that both he and his wife, and his son's wife in California, all received the terrible news at the same time.

"Two Marine cars pulled up in front of our house in Mississippi. I saw them and knew the news was bad," Middleton said. At about the very same moment, the same thing was happening at Jennifer's house at Camp Pendleton.

"That's the way they do it apparently, informing the parents and the spouses at the same time even though they may live in different parts of the country," Middleton said.

Jason and Jennifer have two children, a son, Corbin, 9 and a daughter, Violet, 4.

"All the family is here in Dover," Middleton said.

"We have been told that when the flight lands, the caskets draped with the American flag will be brought off the cargo plane and that there would be a ceremony for the families and friends who went to Dover to be there when their loved one's remains arrived.

Then Middleton said the bodies are taken to a mortuary on the Air Force Base for the individual families.

Middleton said it was a very difficult for everyone in the family. Also at Dover were Jason's two sisters Rebecca, 21, and Samantha, 19.

"My wife, Beverly, has been crying ever since we got the news last Thursday afternoon. It's just very hard on her as it is with the other members of the family," Middleton said.

Middleton said over the weekend that there would be services for his son at Lee Memorial Park on SR82, but he was not sure of the time, but it would be in an obituary on the Citizen's online Internet site, and in the paper if arrangements have been made before press time.

"I'm doing okay," Middleton said. "But my wife and Jason's wife, and his brother and sisters are having a rough time," Middleton said.

"Our memories will always remain of just how proud of Jason we were of his serving his nation. We are very proud of him," Middleton said.

Marine Sgt. Jason G. Amores was killed in action on 1/20/11.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Navy Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Dominique D. Cruz

Remember Our Heroes

Navy Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Dominique D. Cruz, 26, of Panama City, Fla.

Assigned to the destroyer Halsey, homeported in San Diego but currently deployed to the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations; was found during search and rescue operations Jan. 19, 2011 in the Gulf of Oman after being reported missing Jan. 18.

The USS Abraham Lincoln honored a local sailor after she apparently went overboard and died last week. “This week the Lincoln Strike Group family lost a shipmate to the perilous depths of the sea,” the Facebook page read. “A leader, a friend, a patriot, a hero. OS2 Cruz has gone to a far, far better rest than she has ever known, and today all Lincoln warriors fight in her name.”

The memorial was posted by the Lincoln’s public affairs team Friday, the day the Department of Defense released the identity of 26-year-old Navy Petty Officer Dominique Cruz, known to family and friends as Dominique McNair. The Panama City woman’s body was found during search and rescue operations Wednesday in the Gulf of Oman, located between the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea south of the Iranian coast.

Navy officials said Sunday they had no new information about McNair’s death except to confirm the incident is still under investigation.

Friends and family have declined requests for comments about McNair, but dozens of supporters have shared their thoughts and prayers through Facebook postings.

“My heart is breaking!” one woman wrote. “You were an angel.”

A cousin, Victoria Janise McNair, posted shortly after learning of Dominique’s death: “R.I.P. Dominique McNair! Yu were amazing in every way possible. We all miss and love yu!”

Another cousin, Hailey “Ms. Lyte Eyes” McNair, as she is known on Facebook, posted Wednesday she “can’t stop crying. I didn’t even get the chance to tell u bye or give u a hug of nothing! I miss you so much!”

Melissa L. Bell, who serves in the Navy, also posted Wednesday. “My heart hurts, but u will always be in it! Thank you for allowing me to serve with you. I’ve been blessed. I miss you. RIP Dominique McNair.”

McNair was a native of Cleveland, Miss., and graduated from Cleveland High School in 2003, according to her Facebook profile. She later moved to Panama City, enlisted in the Navy in June 2006, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune, and was assigned as an operations specialist to the USS Halsey, home ported in San Diego, in December of that year.

The Halsey had been deployed to the Fifth Fleet area of responsibility, conducting maritime security operations, according to the U.S. Navy. McNair did not report to her watch duty Tuesday and, after a search of the ship, a “man overboard” was called by the ship’s officials to search for her.

Helicopters from Halsey, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), USNS Rainier (T-AOE-7) and the British Royal Navy’s HMS Cumberland (F 85), F/A 18 Hornets from the Lincoln and P-3 maritime patrol aircraft participated in the search operations.

From her Face Book page: I dont care about your farm, or your fish, or your park, or your mafia!!!, God still loves me, even if I don't forward those text messages, My parents didn't put me in time-out, they whooped my ass!, Sorry, I'm allergic to bullshiit., PRAYER IS THE KEY, Barack Obama, I BET THE SOUTH CAN GET 1,000,000 FANS BEFORE THE NORTH, Breast Cancer Awareness, Tyra Sanchez, I Love My Mama, Pray for Ariah, Dwight Howard, Saints, Positively Positive, Antonio McDyess, Debbie Allen, Hennessy, The Bible, Curvy girls are better than skinny girls!, Ashton Kutcher, Sanaa Lathan, Victoria's Secret Pink, Victoria's Secret, Taraji P. Henson, Don't give up on God because he never gave up on you..:), I Love Being Black, Tyler Perry, Maya Angelou, Target, I SUPPORT MY PRESIDENT, The Twilight Saga, If you DON'T want people in your business, Don't post it on your STATUS!, Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kevin Hart, TATIANNA, Orlando Magic, I Hate Duty Days, Vin Diesel, Morris Chestnut

Navy Operations Specialist 2nd Class (SW) Dominique D. Cruz was died 1/18/11.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Marine Cpl. Joseph C. Whitehead

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Cpl. Joseph C. Whitehead, 22, of Axis, Ala.

Cpl. Whitehead was assigned to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Jan. 17, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

Melanie Miller said her son is a hero. "I am very proud. I want everyone one to know, the world to know he was only 22-years-old," said Melanie Miller.

The young Marine's family said he had only been in the battle torn country for five weeks when he was killed. Whitehead's family said he had a big personality and an even bigger heart.

They said he died doing what he loved and knew the sacrifice it would take. "He wanted to serve his country and he went to Afghanistan even though he knew the consequences. He wanted to become a man and he did," said Miller.

Photos of a bright eyed high school graduate adorn the family coffee table. Whitehead's mother, sister, brother and aunt shared stories about him. Stories such as the time he took his niece mud riding or the time he paid his mother's electric bill.

Before deploying to Afghanistan, Cpl. Whitehead served his country in Kuwait and Haiti.

Whitehead was born and raised in Mobile. His uncle, Chris Bassenger, tells News 5 that Whitehead enlisted in the Marines after graduating from Satsuma High School in 2007. He was about to finish up his first stretch and planned to re-enlist in August. Bassenger says it's something Whitehead wanted to do since the 9/11 attacks.

Whitehead turned 22 years old on Wednesday, less than a week prior to his death.

Coach Jeff Kelly, who coached Whitehead while he was a student at Satsuma, says Whitehead was proud to wear his #62 football jersey. Everyone remembers his smile. "He always had a smile on his face, a fun-loving guy. He worked hard in everything, whether it was in the weight room, or between classes. He always had that smile on his face."

Kelly says Whitehead was the kind of student that other students gravitated toward, and the kind of player who could put in countless hours on the field. "I could see he would be a great military guy. He was a mentally tough guy, that he would be a great soldier."

Kelly says the entire community is saddened by his death. "Joseph is a young man who touched many lives in his short time and displayed the courage to look those things in the eye and defend his country, and that is something that we need to be forever grateful."

Whitehead "was doing a sweep for the infantry in the field" when "he set off an IED," an improvised explosive device, said his brother, Destin Goodhue.

"He was a young man that would never back down from hard work," said Kelly. "He was a hard worker and had a certain playfulness about his personality that made folks want to be around him. He was a joy to coach."

Goodhue called his older brother a hero. "He was my hero, my idol. He just paid the ultimate sacrifice," Goodhue said. "I just want everybody to know he was my hero."

Whitehead joined the Marines after graduating from Satsuma High School in 2007, family members said. "He had been in Afghanistan for five weeks," Goodhue said.

"He was the kind of person you would like to know, the best person you could ever possibly imagine to meet," Goodhue said. "Anytime I needed him, he would be there. He never denied me anything in my life. It's a sad loss."

Goodhue said family members have been told that Whitehead's body will arrive in Mobile in about four to seven days.

-Joe-Man i love you so much, you was, are, and will always be my brother. you have been my best friens scince the day i was born. we are exactly alike in so many ways dude. im crying over you everyday because i miss you bro, but you know i guess im just being selfish, because i know that you are looking down on me right now, i know that you are sitting beside me right now as i am typing this. you are my hero. you really are. you put your life out on the line for me and this country. if i grow up to be half the man that you are, im in good shape. we had so many good times together, you were the crazyest, funnyest, goofyest, funest, and most of all the bravest MAN i have ever met. you always told me that i am your brother, and its deffenetly true man. i know your going to be watching over me for the rest of my life man. I LOVE YOU BROTHER! Roll Tide! [1-12-89/ 1-17-11] In loving memory of a hero to us all, my best friend, cpl Joseph Charles Whitehead…Your brother…-Alex-

First thing I have to say is THE WORLD IS SUFFERING A TRAGIC LOSS, WHILE HEAVEN IS RECEIVING A WONDERFUL BLESSING. Joe is an awesome man, son, brother, nephew, grandson,cousin, friend, marine. The day he was born, my world changed forever. He made me smile everytime he walked into a room. The most important thing to Joe is his family, and their happiness. He had the biggest heart and he would do anything for anyone. He was compassionate. He was so funny, even when he drove u crazy, you were laughing. Really, their are no words that can express what a wonderful person he is. He brought so much joy into my life. Me and Joe shared a bond that I will cherish forever. I am so glad to have had the priveldge of having Joe as my nephew. He made the world a better place to be. Joe, I love you and I miss you so much. I will think of you and miss you everyday of my life. When I close my eyes I can feel you hug me, kiss me on my cheek and I can hear you say “I love you Aunt Susie” like you did everytime I saw you. I know you are happy and smiling now and you are making everyone up there roll with laughter just like you did us. I will never forget changing your diaper, feeding u a bottle, helping u walk, t how you beat someone up for me and how no one could say anything bad about me, watching you sing kareoke with Uncle Cris and seeing you and Savanna asleep on the couch together, and you and Alex doing pranks together. I will hold on to all the memories we shared for 22 years so tight. I will cherish every moment that we had with you. I miss you so very much. Rest in Peace and continue to do what you did so well, make people laugh, make them roll with laughter just like you did for us on earth. I know you are watching over us now, and we will see you again when God calls us up to be with you. Until then, my heart will always have a missing piece. We love you, Forever, my Joe-Joe. Love, Aunt Susie, Uncle Cris, Alex and Savanna

Marine Cpl. Joseph C. Whitehead was killed in action on 1/17/11.

Army Maj. Michael S. Evarts

Remember Our Heroes

Army Maj. Michael S. Evarts, 41, of Concord, Ohio

Major Evarts was assigned to 256th Combat Support Hospital, U.S. Army Reserve, Twinsburg, Ohio; died Jan. 17, 2011 in Tikrit, Iraq, in a non-combat-related incident.

Maj. Michael S. Evarts, 41, of Concord Township, died Monday in Tikrit, Iraq, in a non-combat related incident.

Evarts, who has a wife, Monique, and two children (whose names could not be provided), had been assigned to the 256th Combat Support Hospital based out of Twinsburg since 2006 and had only been in Iraq for a couple of months, said Maj. Matthew Lawrence of the 807 for Medical Command in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Evarts was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, and had been a part of the Army for 17 years, Lawrence said, adding his unit left for training in early November.

According to Evarts’ linkedin profile, he was also a pharmaceutical sales specialist at Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals in addition to being an executive officer for the 256th Combat Support Hospital.

The circumstances surrounding his death are still being investigated, Lawrence said. “A, what we call, 15-6 investigation is being implemented, so until that comes out, we can’t really talk about the cause of death or what the reason of death was,” he said.

Longtime veterans council member Dan Evarts has learned that his brother died Monday while serving in Tikrit, Iraq, with the U.S. Army Reserve.

Maj. Michael S. Evarts, 41, was a communications officer with the 256th Combat Support Hospital and died in a non-combat-related incident, an Army spokesman in Utah said.

Keith Jermyn, Hingham’s (Massachusetts) director of veterans services, has helped Dan Evarts navigate military channels so he can be at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware when his brother’s body arrives from Iraq.

Michael Evarts was killed during his second tour in Iraq. In 2006, he served as a logistics officer near Baquba. He helped train Iraqi infantry in combat operations. He also distributed school supplies and toys sent by Hingham Cub Scouts and Hingham High School students.

Also from Linkedin:
Mike Evarts’s Interests: Waterskiing, Snowskiing, Running, Motorsports
Mike Evarts’s Groups: MAJ in the Army Reserves
Mike Evarts’s Honors: Bronze Star Medal awardee for service in Iraq 2007

Reservist was active, fun-loving
The Associated Press

Mike Evarts ran marathons, skied on both snow and water, and loved music. His close friends say he always was full of energy, goodwill and humor.

“He had a big heart and infectious laugh,” longtime friend Todd Ulrich told The News-Herald in northeastern Ohio. “I’ve never laughed as much as I’ve laughed with him where I had tears streaming down my face. It was quite a special thing that he had a gift for that.”

Evarts, a 41-year-old Cleveland resident, was a salesman for a pharmaceutical company. He also spent nearly two decades in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he was an executive officer with the 256th Combat Support Hospital in Twinsburg.

During his second overseas deployment, Evarts died Jan. 17 in Tikrit, Iraq. The Defense Department says his death was not combat-related.

He was a graduate of St. Lawrence University, where he majored in science and completed the ROTC program while competing on the school’s football and wrestling teams.

Evarts leaves behind his wife, Monique, and two sons, 7-year-old Zachary and 4-year-old Luke.

Army Maj. Michael S. Evarts was killed in a non-combat related incident on 1/17/11.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Army Spc. Jose A. Torre

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Jose A. Torre, 21, of Garden Grove, Calif.

Spc Torre was assigned to Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.; died Jan. 15, 2011 in Baghdad of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit with a rocket-propelled grenade.

Soldier was ‘turning his life around’
The Associated Press

Jose Torre’s high school Spanish teacher remembers a student who not too long ago struggled, “like most teens.”

But then he started to turn his life around and became focused as he matured during his junior and senior years, said Alicia Duncan, of Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, Calif.

His guidance counselor, whom he had visited at his former high school on recent trips home, said that after he graduated, she could see Torre had found a sense of fulfillment in serving his country.

“He came in a couple of times in his fatigues,” Amy Bowman told the Orange County Register. “He was very proud of serving. He told me he was very happy doing what he was doing. I got the sense that he belonged and was part of something bigger.”

Jose Torre Jr., 21, of Garden Grove, Calif., was killed in Baghdad in an attack on his unit. He was assigned to Fort Riley, Kan.

“He was a man at 15,” Duncan said shortly after his death. “Why does it always have to be the kid who is pulling his life back together?”

Torre graduated in 2007 from Pacifica, where he was on the varsity wrestling team.

Teachers described him as friendly and outgoing.

Army Spc. Jose A. Torre was killed in action on 1/15/11.

Army Sgt. Michael P. Bartley

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Michael P. Bartley. 23, of Barnhill, Ill.

Sgt Bartley was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Spc. Martin J. Lamar.

FAIRFIELD, Ill. — A Wayne County, Ill., Army sergeant was one of two soldiers killed Saturday in a training exercise in the northern Iraq city of Mosul.

Sgt. Michael Bartley, 23, of Barnhill, Ill., died when an Iraqi soldier, who apparently smuggled live ammunition into a training exercise, opened fire. A U.S. military official said the shooter was immediately killed by American forces who were running the morning drill at a training center in Mosul.

The official said the exercise was not meant to include live ammunition. An Iraqi Army official said the shooting appeared to have been planned.

Michael Bartley was a 2007 graduate of Fairfield Community High School and the only child of Rebecca Isles of Fairfield.

"I talked to him on Friday," Isles said. "He told me he was doing fine and was in the middle of a big training exercise, getting ready for a generals visit."

Members of the New Beginnings Church in Fairfield gathered Saturday night at the home of Bartley's grandmother, Delta Lewis, to offer the family prayers and comfort.

Isles said her son enlisted in the Army not long after high school and recently had re-enlisted. He was on his second tour of duty in Iraq when he was killed Saturday. Bartley was a member of a U.S. Army Cavalry unit.

Army officials notified Isles of the death on Saturday evening. She was to meet with military officials Sunday afternoon to begin making funeral arrangements.

"They are going to fly me to Washington, D.C., so I can be there when his remains arrive home," Isles said.

His mother was on hand as her son’s flag draped coffin turned to the States at Dover Air Force Base.

Family, friends and community members are remembering a Wayne County, Illinois, soldier killed during a training exercise in Iraq.

Bartley was a graduate of Fairfield Community High School. Former principal Diana Zurliene, now superintendent of Fairfield Elementary School, said Bartley knew from an early age that he wanted to join the armed forces.

"'(He told me) 'Ms. Z, I'm going to go into the military' and I said, 'Michael, that's a good ambition for you.' And he worked towards that," Zurliene said. "He played sports and he stayed in shape and everything 'cause he said 'When I join I've got to be able to do the PT and everything like that.' So that was always his goal that he was going to join the military and make a future of it."

The flag at Fairfield Community High School was flown at half-staff Monday in honor of Bartley. Fairfield Community High School Superintendent David Savage, said the school will have a moment of silence Tuesday morning and before their first game of the week to honor him.

"Michael was a very special young man, he was very dedicated. And not just to himself, but to his goals and his country," Superintendent Savage said.

"He was always the young man who looked at the glass as always half full. He never looked at the bad side of things, there was always a brighter side," said Superintendent Zurliene.

A former classmate posted this message on

“I really took a hard hit over this. My heart is tore up....he was my friend and we graduated from high school together from FCHS...Class of 2007. We took several courses together and also talked several times. Michael was a good guy who lived life to the fullest. He was a good athlete. He played baseball all four years at FCHS.”

A comrade made the following comment on Michael’s MySpace page:

“Now we have to say bye to you an Lamar I wish I could have been there to take the hit for y'all I know you will never see this but rip burtle”

Sgt. Bartley is a native of Barnhill, a town just a few miles south of Fairfield in Wayne County.

"He enlisted in the Army, and I thought, how appropriate. You know their motto is to be all you can be. Michael lived that," Fairfield Schools Superintendent David Savage said.

Bartley's former basketball coach Chase Curd said he remembers Bartley for his work ethic and optimistic spirit--no matter how many times he was knocked down, he always pulled himself back up.

"He came from a place where he could have gone a whole lot of different directions. And he went the right direction," Curd said.

Curd first met Bartley as his 8th grade basketball coach--He worked with him again when Michael was a senior in high school and volunteered to help coach that same team.

"I love and am proud of every one of my players that I've coached," Curd said, "But I'd be lying if I said that Michael wasn't probably the one I was most proud of."

A pastor at Rebecca Isles church in Xenia, IL said the congregation is sharing her loss.

"Everyone is really grief-stricken by it and really heartbroken by it. We all really felt for Becky," said Pastor Mark Shell of Orchardville Church.

It's really a scriptural thing where when one mourns, everyone mourns."

Army Sgt. Michael P. Bartley was killed in action on 1/15/11.

Army Sgt. Martin J. ‘Mick’ LaMar

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Martin J. ‘Mick’ LaMar, 43, of Sacramento, Calif.

Sgt LaMar was assigned to 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; died Jan. 15, 2011 in Mosul of wounds sustained when an Iraqi soldier from the unit with which he was training shot him with small-arms fire. Also killed was Sgt. Michael P. Bartley.

MOSUL, IRAQ - A Sacramento soldier has been shot to death by an Iraqi soldier he was training.

Spc. Martin J. "Mick" LaMar, 43, was shot Jan. 15 in Mosul, Iraq. The Iraqi soldier also shot Sgt. Michael P. Bartley, 23, of Barnhill, Ill.

Both soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

A news release said a third U.S. soldier was wounded. It was not immediately clear what happened to the Iraqi soldier who shot them.

One of LaMar's friends called News10 to clarify the soldier's name.

"He hated being called Martin," said Wylie Guadamuz. "We called him Mick or Micky," he said.

Guadamuz said LaMar served as a Marine in the first Gulf War and later joined the Army. "He lived to be a soldier. He loved it."

Guadamuz said Mick LaMar is survived by his wife, Josephine, and five children. Josephine and the three youngest children were living in Ft. Hood, he said.

Wylie Guadamuz wrote:

"thank you all for the prayers and thoughts. he hated being called martin. he liked being called micky or mick. and its LaMar. that would have really bugged him!! he loved serving. being in and going back was all he talked about. he was doing what he loved and believed in. he was coming home next week. mick will be sorely missed. thanks again for all the prayers." gguada

A Sacramento soldier who was killed in Iraq was scheduled to come home that very day, but his deployment was postponed for one week.

It's a tough loss for family members, who say 43-year-old Specialist Martin Lamar was a family man and all-around great guy.

"He had a newborn daughter he hasn't met yet," says Lamar's brother-in-law, Gilbert Alvarado. "He loved his family, his wife, his kids. He was a provider."

According to The Department of Defense, Lamar and one other soldier were killed by an Iraqi soldier they were training. Alvarado says the Iraqi soldier wasn't supposed to be using live ammunition, that it was an insurgent who infiltrated the military. "[The insurgent] ambushed [Lamar] and another fellow soldier. It was definitely a planned killing. The insurgency is still active."

The Iraqi soldier was killed as well. This was Spc. Lamar's second tour of duty in Iraq. Alvarado says he's always been gung-ho about the military. "If there was any way he wanted to go, this was the way he wanted to go, serving his country. That's a big honor for us, the family, I'm sure for the country, too."

Micky Lamar went to Oakmont High School in Roseville. Now, his family just wants him home. "Hopefully in the next week or so we'll bring him home to Sacramento and give him the right burial," says Alvarado.

Spc. Martin Lamar died January 15th, along with 23-year-old Michael Bartley of Barnhill, Illinois.

Alvarado wants people to remember that there's still a lot of fighting in Iraq, that our soldiers are still dying. "Hopefully this death won't be in vain, it will be for our freedom."

Army Sgt. Martin J. ‘Mick’ LaMar was killed in action on 1/15/11.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Army Maj. Evan J. Mooldyk

Remember Our Heroes

Army Maj. Evan J. Mooldyk, 47, of Danville, Calif.

Major Mooldyk was assigned to 19th Sustainment Command, 377th Theater Sustainment Command, Belle Chasse, La.; died Jan. 12, 2011 in Khowst province, Afghanistan, in a noncombat-related incident.

He had been in Afghanistan for one year and was supposed to come back home to Danville in just two weeks. Mooldyk also served a year in Iraq while he was a member of the National Guard five years ago.

Dear Leslie, Connor, Quinn and Kelly, I'm so very sad to hear about your loss. Your husband and dad sounds like an incredible guy. Reading the article brought tears to my eyes and a heaviness to my heart this morning.

It's hard enough to celebrate holidays, birthdays or even just a quiet evening at home when you've got someone you love so very far from home. The one thread you've hung onto for nearly a year was that this sadness would be replaced with joy once he came home again and your family could once again establish "normal" with him nearby.

As a member of the National Guard family, it's common to feel like the entire world goes on without the knowledge of what your family is going through because Rancho Murieta is not near a regular Army base where others share your loneliness and worries. Going to Home Depot to pick up things to help keep the house looking great, or out to dinner without "dad" seems strange when you look around and see other men accompany their wives and children on these daily chores that no one gives much thought to. It's only another family that has a loved one away that can understand how out of place daily chores feel when your guy is missing.

It's with extreme sadness that your time without your soldier has ended without a joyous homecoming. Your family has indeed given the ultimate sacrifice of service to our country. Those words sometimes sound hollow especially at a time like this, but in the big picture, he did the work he believed in. The time he spent away from his family was a gift of what a dedicated citizen of our nation will offer in order to serve the values that make our nation great. For that, I thank you. Debra Lind, a.k.a., Mrs. Major Stephen Lind, California Army National Guard, (deployed).

He is survived by his wife Leslie, sons Connor 15, Quinn 13, and daughter Kelly 19.

Army Maj. Evan J. Mooldyk was killed in a non-combat related incident on 1/12/11.

Army Pfc. Zachary S. Salmon

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Zachary S. Salmon, 21, of Harrison, Ohio

Pfc. Salmon was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.; died Jan. 12, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with small arms fire.

The body of a soldier who recently moved back to the Tri-State will return to the United States. 21 year old Pfc. Zachary Salmon was a gunner in an armored vehicle and was fatally shot when the vehicle was attacked in Afghanistan on Wednesday.

His sister, Kelsi, says the family was told on Wednesday afternoon. The last time she talked to him was on Monday. "He was in good spirits," she said. "He had his ups and downs during the whole tour, but mostly he was in good spirits."

Pfc. Salmon grew up in Ohio, but he moved to Tennessee as a teenager and graduated from Pigeon Forge High School in 2008. After graduating he returned to the Tri-State and spent a year living in Hebron, Kentucky with his mother. His father lives in Hamilton. He enlisted in March of 2010 and was deployed in September.

"I remember Zack being a good student," said John Griffis, Pigeon Forge High School counselor. "He would stop and see us at the guidance office every now and then. I remember him as a good person." A moment of silence was held in Zack's honor before the Pigeon Forge/Gibbs boy's basketball game Thursday night at Pigeon Forge High School.

Salmon joined the Army in March 2010 and he was deployed in September. His sister says he considered his service his calling in life. "Everyone was so proud of him," said Salmon. "He was very, very loved."

Pfc. Salmon's aunt, Christine Craig of Lawrenceberg tells Local 12 his mother and father are going to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. They plan to be there when his remains arrive. Craig says her nephew will be buried at Riverview Cemetery in Aurora, Indiana but his services have not been set yet. Part of Pfc. Salmon's family has lived in Pigeon Forge for the past eight years, but most of them still live in the Tri-State.

"He's not going to be at our family functions," Craig said. "It's just that a hole that he's going to leave because he is larger than life." Another aunt, Denise Hogue, says Salmon's good friend and fellow soldier Joseph Frank was there when Salmon was killed.

"[Salmon] looked in [Frank's] eyes as if he was letting them down. He felt him getting killed was him letting his fellow soldiers down," Hogue said. "That to me is a hero."

"He was such a wonderful, loving father," Craig said. "He adored Noah. It was fun to see him with Noah. Zach made everything fun."

Craig says Salmon's mother, Rene Cross, can't believe she's lost her son. "That's one of her babies, and that's something no mother anywhere should have to deal with," Craig said. "Knowing that her baby has a baby that's not going to know his dad just tears her up."

On an evening nearly cold enough to freeze a teardrop, about 60 people gathered at Patriot Park in Sevier County to grieve and light a candle for a soldier who gave his all.

Army Pfc. Zachary Salmon, 21 and the father of a 3-year-old boy, took a sniper's bullet Wednesday in Afghanistan, wearing a tattoo on his leg that says, "Life is but a vapor," a reference to a favorite passage of Scripture, James 4:14.

"He was in a vehicle sitting when it was attacked," said Keely McCarter, Salmon's fiance, who with her mother and grandmother organized the candlelight vigil Friday evening in Pigeon Forge. "They couldn't shut the door in time."

A few dozen solemn mourners - many, if not most, strangers to the soldier - stood in the frigid park to hear Salmon eulogized by Earlene Teaster, Pigeon Forge city manager, and others who had known the 2008 Pigeon Forge High School graduate.

Teaster called him "a fine, fine young man" and spoke of his spiritual nature, saying he had told McCarter that, based on his faith, he was not worried about what might happen. He said he would be "A-OK," Teaster said. "Zack is A-OK now."

Candles provided a warm glow to a memorial stand that included pictures of Salmon and McCarter, and those in attendance also held candles in his memory. McCarter wept softly throughout the vigil.

Shirley Harmon, McCarter's grandmother, said Salmon's mother was the best friend of her daughter, Andrea Weddington, McCarter's mother.

Weddington said following the brief memorial that Salmon was "loving and giving" and she looked forward to having him as a son-in-law.

"He always put others first," she said. "He had questions about what to do with his life" and how best to be a father to Noah, 3, whose mother is a former girlfriend of Salmon's.

"His world was built around his son," Weddington said. "He was remarkable."

Salmon was scheduled to return in April, McCarter said, and the couple planned to be married in September.

During the memorial, members of the groups spontaneously sang a verse of "America the Beautiful," and Vanessa Mayes, a family friend, read from a poem she wrote for Salmon titled "One in a Million."

The poem includes the lines "You taught us how to live/How to appreciate our freedom/How to appreciate another day/How to appreciate a friend, a brother, a son, a father, a hero."

Army Pfc. Zachary S. Salmon was killed in action on 1/12/11.

Army Sgt. Zainah C. Creamer

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Zainah C. Creamer, 28, of Texarkana, Ark.

Sgt Creamer was assigned to 212th Military Police Detachment, Headquarters Battalion, Fort Belvoir, Va.; died Jan. 12, 2011 in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device.

She was an Army sergeant, based in Northern Virginia, and she was an Army dog handler. Last month, a cousin said, she posted pictures on the Internet of herself and the dog, costumed for Christmas, in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Zainah Caye Creamer, 28, who was based at Fort Belvoir, was in the military police, and she and her working dog, Jofa, were assigned to check vehicles and facilities for explosives, a Belvoir spokesman said. The two had gone to Afghanistan in October.

Creamer was killed Wednesday in Kandahar province when insurgents attacked her unit with an improvised explosive device, the Pentagon said.

Details of the incident were sketchy. But Don Carr, the Belvoir spokesman, said Creamer and the dog were doing their job, carrying out "a route and building clearance mission" when the blast occurred.

Creamer went to high school in Texarkana, Ark., and "always loved animals," her cousin, Samantha Creamer, said Sunday in an interview. Other interests included hunting and fishing, the cousin said, as well as the martial art of taekwondo.

She "absolutely loved being in the Army," the cousin said. She enjoyed serving, and she "loved her dog she had in the Army."

Samantha Creamer said that her cousin was often "smiling and laughing" and caring for others and that she rarely had a bad word for anybody. "Everybody that knew her loved her," the cousin said. "'She touched a lot of people for the short amount of time she was on Earth," her cousin said. "That was her personality."

Creamer, who was single, was assigned to the 212th Military Police Detachment, Headquarters Battalion at Fort Belvoir. Fort Belvoir spokesman Don Carr said that Creamer had been in the Army for six years and three months and had been assigned to the 212th since October of 2009.

"This was her third deployment, but her first as a Military Working Dog handler," said Carr. Creamer and her work dog, Jofa, left for Afghanistan in October. Jofa was not hurt in the attack.

Creamer's aunt — Pat Willis — told the Texarkana Gazette that the memorial service will be Thursday at 10:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church. Willis said burial is likely to take place in the Phillipines.

Army Sgt. Zainah C. Creamer was killed in action on 1/12/11.

Army Spc. Benjamin G. Moore

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Benjamin G. Moore, 23, of Robbinsville, N.J.

Spc. Moore was assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Jan. 12, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Cpl. Jarrid L. King and Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves.

BORDENTOWN, N.J. — Benjamin Moore had a strong sense of duty and service.

It spurred him to serve with a volunteer fire company at just 16 years old, and led him to join the Army two years ago.

“His main beliefs were his family and community service,” said Capt. Ken Mortello, who served with Moore at the Hope Hose Humane Fire Company.

Army Pfc. Benjamin Moore, 23, was killed in Afghanistan on Jan. 12.

The Defense Department said Jan. 13 that Moore and two other soldiers were killed in Ghazni province. They suffered fatal wounds when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.

All were assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

A seven-year member of the fire company, Moore was remembered by his fellow firefighters as a jokester.

“If he saw someone serious, he tried to make him smile,” said Mortello, who also serves as a firefighter for the Defense Department.

Mortello said Moore knew how to push people’s buttons. He saw Moore grow from a young teenager into a more emotionally developed young man, a maturation helped by his time in the military, Mortello said.

Moore talked about becoming a career firefighter or some other form of emergency services, according to Mortello. He had the chops for it.

“When he left here on a military leave of absence he was our fire lieutenant,” Mortello recalled.

“He was well liked. To be in that position, you have to be trusted by your colleagues.”

Mortello said he had no doubt Moore had the same rapport with his fellow soldiers in the Army.

The close-knit river community is mourning the loss of one of its own — a municipality where to be a Bordentownian, you must be born in the community, Mortello said.

Moore was a Bordentownian.

“He was an integral part of our team,” Mortello said. “I lost more than a friend, I lost a brother.”

‘We will never forget him’

By Julie Shannon
(Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post

BORDENTOWN CITY, N.J. — Hundreds of family members, friends, fellow service members and others came together on Jan. 22 to remember Army Spc. Benjamin G. Moore, killed in Afghanistan on Jan. 12.

Inside Trinity United Methodist Church, every pew and open space was filled to with people there to honor the fallen soldier. Two servicemen stood on opposite sides of Moore’s casket like watchdogs protecting their leader.

Outside the church, hundreds more stood on Farnsworth Avenue, bundled from head-to-toe in the frigid weather, clutching American flags tightly to their chest. Three women held a banner that read, “Thank You Ben.”

Moore was among three soldiers who were killed when enemy forces attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.

As well as being part of the Army, Moore was a firefighter and an EMT with the Hope Hose Humane Company of Bordentown City. He joined the fire company when he was 16.

The 2006 Bordentown Regional High School graduate received many awards including the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and the NATO Medal.

“I learned a lot about Benjamin right out of the gate,” said the Rev. Thomas C. Miller at the funeral service. “As I learned more and more, the more I liked him.”

Moore was well known for his gentle kindness, courage and the way he would do any job asked of him at any given moment.

Miller turned to Bordentown Mayor Tom Lynch and said, “Did you ever wonder about him campaigning against you one day?”

Later in the service, Lynch proclaimed, “Ben is our mayor today.”

Miller remembered Moore for being a team player who had “such purpose” in life.

“He was the one helping others,” he said profoundly. “Do you see what God did with his life?”

One by one, family and friends got up to speak about the fallen comrade. Some talked about how dedicated he was to his community and how much he loved being a part of the fire company. Others spoke of his outgoing personality that would get others in trouble, not him.

“Somehow, somewhere, he would always get you in trouble,” one friend said with a laugh that enabled others to laugh with him. “But he was a good man, a good person and we’ll never forget him.”

Another friend said Moore helped people as much as he could for the right reasons.

“He didn’t help because it was the right thing to do, he did it because he wanted to,” one friend said.

After the service, service members carried his flag-draped casket onto one of the city’s fire trucks before driving past hundreds of mourners.

It was preceded by a police escort, firefighters and the Warrior Watch Riders motorcycle group.

As his cousin Jacob Archer put it, “He knew what he was getting in to, and he paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Army Spc. Benjamin G. Moore was killed in action on 1/12/11.

Army Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves

Remember Our Heroes

Army Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves, 30, of El Paso, Texas

SSgt Aceves was assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Jan. 12, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Cpl. Jarrid L. King and Spc. Benjamin G. Moore.

An El Paso soldier killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday will be remembered for his "big eyes and beautiful smile."

Sgt. Omar Aceves, 30, a husband and father, and two other soldiers were killed in Ghazni Province when their unit was struck by a homemade bomb.

The other soldiers were Spc. Jarrid L. King, 20, of Erie, Pa., and Pfc. Benjamin G. Moore, 23, of Robbinsville, N.J.

All three were combat engineers with the 693rd Engineer Company of the 7th Engineer Battalion from Fort Drum, N.Y.

Patricia Enriquez, Aceves' older sister, was one of the first members of the family to be notified. Aceves, one of five children, had two brothers and two sisters.

"The military did come over to pay their condolences," Enriquez said. "We were all in denial and kept thinking we were going to get a phone call saying they made a mistake."

Aceves' wife, parents and other sister were in Fort Drum on Friday to receive his body.

Enriquez said the rest of the family was still coming to terms with the death.

"Omar is a hero. He died fighting for our country and made us proud," she said as an official statement from the family. "Please keep us and all soldiers in your prayers. The war is not over."

Funeral arrangements had not been finalized as of Friday. Aceves' body will be buried either in El Paso, where he was born, or in Dallas, where his wife lives.

Omar Aceves was married to Leticia Aceves for six years. His children range in age from one year to eight years. He had two step-sons. His sister says he last saw his children in August, when he got a break in rotation. He was supposed to come home after his tour in April.

"They were his world," Enriquez said.

"When he was in town, he always wanted to spend time with his kids," Enriquez said. "They would all dress in military clothing, just like their daddy.

"I see his big eyes and his beautiful smile on them," she said.

When Aceves visited El Paso, he cherished time with the family and had an appetite for homemade Mexican food. Enriquez said he requested Mexican candy in his last package.

"The thing I remember the most about him is his big heart and great sense of humor," Enriquez said. "He had a great big smile that would just light up our lives."

After graduating Ysleta High School in 1999, Aceves spent four years in the military. After that, he spent time out of the service until he decided to make it a career and enlisted again in 2005.

He was then assigned to Fort Hood, where he met Leticia, before he was deployed to Iraq during 2006-2008.

After he returned from Iraq, he was stationed at Fort Drum, until he was deployed to Afghanistan last May.

"He was very proud of serving in the military," Enriquez said. "He felt the military was the best way to support himself and his family."

Along with his campaign medals, his decorations included the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Badge, the Air Assault Badge, the Marksman Qualification Badge and more, according to a press release from Fort Drum public affairs.

"He was a great father, husband and he was a great leader," Enriquez said.

"We are very proud of him because he did something that not everyone can do. He died fighting for his country, which he loved."

January 15, 2011 -- Condolence Book

"My comrade,my friend,my brother,to your family I send my condolences and prayers.Today is a very sad day for me,the day that I heard that I lost a very special friend in you.I am glad to have been able to serve with and get to know you.I will miss you forever and will always remember the times we got to share here on earth together.We will share more later I know but the present is so hard to believe that I won't be able to share any more of the laughs and the old stories when we were roommates at Ft.Hood and of our last deployment but those are memories that I will forever hold onto.You were a great man Ace and an even better husband and father and I will forever pray for your wife and kids.May God always bless and protect them.To the family stay strong and your son,husband,father,brother(Omar "ACE" Aceves)will forever be missed by all the people he came in contact with and knew him.May God bless you all.I miss you Ace. Rest In Peace friend."

Sgt. Aceves is survived by his wife Leticia and 6 children; two sisters and two brothers and his parents who live in El Paso.

Army Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves was killed in action on 1/12/11.

Army Cpl. Jarrid L. King

Remember Our Heroes

Army Cpl. Jarrid L. King, 20, of Erie, Pa.

Cpl. King was assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.; died Jan. 12, 2011 in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained when enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. Also killed were Staff Sgt. Omar Aceves and Spc. Benjamin G. Moore.

Family friend Jeff Meade told the Erie Times-News that Mr. King aspired to a career in the military. Mr. Meade said Mr. King was "polite, popular and the first to help anyone who needed it."

Jarrid was a great young man and very popular. He was always polite and had a smile on his face.

Harbor Creek Athletic Director Andy Krahe said this:

He was very mature for his age. He was always, 'Yes, sir, no, sir.' He was one of the politest kids walking the halls. He was always pleasant and smiling, and he seemed to know what he wanted to do in the classroom and athletically.

King participated in Harbor Creek High School's wrestling program while in seventh, eighth and ninth grades.

Harbor Creek's wrestling head coach at that time was Mark Sallot, who currently serves as a volunteer wrestling coach at the school.

Sallot remembers immediately slapping a nickname on King when he began coaching him. I used to call him 'Subway,' when that Jared (Fogle) guy was doing all those commercials for Subway. Every time I'd see him at practice, I'd say, 'Boy, there's Jared, and he's lost a lot of weight.' He thought that was funny.

Jarrid King competed in the 119-pound weight class as a freshman -- the last year he wrestled.

Harbor Creek High School American History teacher and varsity baseball coach, Tim McQueeney instructed King during his sophomore year.

He was one of the most polite, well-mannered students I've ever been associated with. We certainly view Jarrid as an American hero. We appreciate what he and other military personnel around the world do for America.

When King returned home on leave in spring, he attended a few Harbor Creek baseball games to watch his two brothers play.

King's brother Jason is a senior, and his brother Johnathon is a sophomore. Both brothers pitch and play infield.

Cpl. King joined the Army in March 2009. Fort Drum was his first assignment after training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. His awards include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Combat Action Badge. Cpl. King is survived by his mother and father.

Obituary: Jarrid L. King / Soldier from Erie County serving in Afghanistan --
Nov. 6, 1990 - Jan. 12, 2011

A soldier who knew he wanted to join the military since the age of 15 and called people "sir" and "ma'am" even before entering the service died Wednesday in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Specialist Jarrid L. King, of Harborcreek Township near Erie, died in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, after enemy forces attacked his unit with an explosive device on Wednesday, the Department of Defense said. He was 20. (The Army on Friday awarded Mr. King a posthumous promotion to corporal.)

Also killed were Sergeant Omar Aceves, 30, of El Paso, Texas, and Private First Class Benjamin G. Moore, 23, of Robbinsville, N.J. The three soldiers were assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion, 10th Sustainment Brigade, 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.

Mr. King was born in Millington, Tenn. He attended Harbor Creek High School; he was on the wrestling team in seventh through ninth grades.

Jeff Meade, a neighbor and family friend whose son grew up with Mr. King, said he loved him like a son. Mr. King, his two brothers Jason and Johnathan, and Mr. Meade's son were "very tight" and enjoyed wrestling together. Mr. Meade was at the King home Saturday and spoke on behalf of the family.

"It would be nothing to look outside the window and see all four of them twisted up in the back yard," Mr. Meade said.

Mr. King expressed a desire for a military career when he was about 15, Mr. Meade said.

"When anyone needed a hand, he was the first one there to help," Mr. Meade said. "That's why he went into the military -- it's what he always wanted to do."

Mr. King left for active duty in the U.S. Army in April 2009.

While serving in Afghanistan, he spoke with his father almost daily on the Internet, Mr. Meade said. One of his favorite things to do was to talk to his father's two dogs over the computer as well, Mr. Meade said.

When Mr. King's photo was recently shown on the television, the dogs ran up to the television and barked at it, Mr. Meade said.

"They thought they were talking to him," he said.

Mr. King felt a strong duty toward his country and was very proud of his work in Afghanistan, Mr. Meade said. While home on leave over the summer, he told family and friends stories about passing out candy to Afghan children.

"He told me they are making a difference over there," Mr. Meade said. "He was very adamant about that."

Spc. King is survived by his parents, Donald L. King Jr. and Laura Elizabeth Weaver King; and his brothers Jason, 18, and Johnathan, 15, all of Harborcreek; and grandparents Ann and Donald King Sr., of Wesleyville, Pa., and David and Judith Weaver, of Summerville, S.C.

Army Cpl. Jarrid L. King was killed in action on 1/12/11.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Army Pfc. Robert J. Near

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Robert J. Near, 21, of Nampa, Idaho

Pfc. Near was assigned to the 86th Signal Battalion, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; died Jan. 7, 2011 in Kandahar, Afghanistan, while supporting combat operations.

Before his enlistment in the U.S. Army in 2008, Robert J. Near had moved to Nampa to train for a promising career in computer technology at Centennial Job Corps.

The 21-year-old Granger, WA.-native died in combat this past week while serving as a private first class infantryman in Afghanistan, according to relatives. Family members reached in Granger on Saturday said they do not yet know the details of his death, but Army officials have told them they are treating it as a combat-related incident.

Near, who also had Treasure Valley family in Ontario, had deployed to Afghanistan in March. As recently as several days ago, Near talked with his grandmother in Granger over the phone. Family members said he had been due to return home within the next few weeks.

Speaking on behalf of Near’s family, his uncle, Terry Near, said the family was notified of the death Thursday and an Army liaison visited them in person on Saturday.

Near's grandmother, Vera Near, said her grandson grew up in her Granger home from the age of 2. She declined to talk further Monday afternoon.

“He was a very intelligent kid, he had a lot of drive and he had a lot of family around him that helped,” Terry Near said. “He had kind of gotten off to a rocky start at the beginning in high school, but when he got in the Job Corps he really started to get his life together and he pretty much took off from there.”

After completing his training at Centennial Job Corps, Near decided he wanted to continue to pursue his education. The Army offered him an opportunity to do that, Terry Near said.

Those who knew Near remembered him for his sense of humor and quick wit.

"He was a funny and a fun kid," said Lisa Rosberg, principal at Granger Middle School. "He just always was looking for a way to make people laugh and get people's attention."

Michael Delaney, Near's computer instructor at Centennial Job Corps in Nampa, Idaho, said much the same, remembering him as an upbeat class clown who excelled at his studies. "Many students in the program have emotional baggage because of their backgrounds," Delaney said. "I never really saw that with Robert. I never saw him sulking in the corner."

Before joining the military, Near completed 13 months of training at Job Corps, a federal program, earning certificates as a computer operator and in business technology.

Delaney, a former military recruiter, encouraged Near to consider joining the military after Job Corps, partly to help pay for college. However, he said Near understood the risks of combat when he enlisted. "He thought the benefits were higher than the risks," Delaney said.

“He knew the dangers of enlisting with the war going on and all, but he was willing to take that risk,” his uncle said. “And he did. He stood up. He was a man.” An infantryman on track for promotion, Near had excelled in the military, according to family. “We can’t say enough about him,” Terry Near said.

Army Pfc. Robert J. Near was killed in action on 1/07/11.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Giese

Remember Our Heroes

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Giese, 24, of Winder, Ga.

LCpl. Giese was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.; died Jan. 7, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan, while conducting combat operations.

Ryan Giese spent his childhood in Lorain, Ohio where his dad was a police officer. At age ten he moved to Georgia with his mother and sisters, after his parents split.

His family said being a marine was something Ryan had always talked about. He told his father Larry that he wanted to be a marine just like his dad was during the Vietnam War. Ryan said if he didn’t stay in the military he would become a police officer, just like his dad.

When Ryan was 17, he asked his father to sign paperwork that would let him enlist. His father said no. When Ryan turned 18, he enlisted in the Marines.

In less than 30 days, Lance Cpl. Giese was supposed to return back to his base at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. His family was making travel plans to be there to meet him.

After his long deployment, Ryan and his wife Brittany in Atlanta were happily looking forward to celebrating their first wedding anniversary next month. Instead Ryan's family flew to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet his returning casket.

Larry said Ryan liked to take point — or lead the troop. He wasn’t sure if Ryan was at point when he was killed. "He was looking out for other people," Larry said of his son. "He said, ‘I know what I’m doing.’

Larry Giese said the last time he spoke with his son was about three weeks ago. "It was, God, I was really looking forward to seeing him," Larry Giese said. "And that’s not going to happen anymore."

Giese joined the Marine Corps in July 2007 and was promoted to lance corporal in September 2008. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2008 to April 2009.

In July, he deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to a Marine Corps spokesman.

His awards include the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, according to the Marine Corps.

Among those Lance Cpl. Giese leaves behind are his wife Heather, his mother Constance Wascovich, his father Larry Giese, and his three sisters.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Giese was killed in action on 1/07/11.

Army Pfc. Ira B. Laningham IV

Remember Our Heroes

Army Pfc. Ira B. Laningham IV, 22, of Zapata, Texas

Pfc. Laningham was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Jan. 7, 2011 of wounds suffered in Logar province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. Also killed was Army Spc. Ethan C. Hardin.

Zapata soldier killed in Afghanistan

Ira Laningham, IV was married Oct. 18, 2010, to Pfc. Stephanie Laningham, who he had met at Fort Polk and dated for only a few months. The two were deployed to Afghanistan together four days later.

"He called me and told me he was engaged and said, ‘Mom, I think I’m in love,’" Laningham’s mother, Norma Cantu, said. "I didn’t get to attend, it was such short notice."

Laningham told his mother not to worry — he and Stephanie were planning a big wedding at Disney World when they got back from Afghanistan.

Stephanie Laningham accompanied her husband’s body back to U.S. soil, arriving at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Sunday night. She will get 30 days of emergency leave from her tour of duty and plans to spend at least part of that time staying with Cantu, who has only met her once.

Cantu said her son was a music lover who sang, played the trumpet and taught himself how to play the guitar. He enjoyed spending time with his family, including two brothers and a sister.

"Oh my gosh, they were a group," Cantu said of her sons and their cousins.

Pfc. Laningham’s brother Pfc. Joseph Cantu is also in the Army, stationed in Oklahoma.

Cantu struggled to keep from breaking down in tears when she described how she and the rest of the family was coping.

"I’m trying to be strong because he didn’t want me to cry," she said.

At Zapata High School, where he graduated in 2006, Laningham is remembered as a popular student who played in the school marching and mariachi bands. Principal Jose Flores said the school had to create a schedule so Laningham could fit in band, ROTC and advanced placement courses.

Trumpeter Laningham used to play taps at military funerals ---

Sometimes, families of Zapata veterans would call the school to see if anyone could play taps at funerals, Flores said. While he was in high school, that person was always Laningham.

"He took a lot of pride in going and playing taps for the veterans," Flores said.

Throughout his high school years, Army Pfc. Ira Benjamin Laningham IV of Zapata used his love of music and his skills on the trumpet to play taps at military funerals.

Ira Laningham, 22, considered the soldiers fallen heroes and wanted to honor them, said his mother Norma Cantú.

On Friday, the young newlywed joined the ranks of the fallen as the first South Texas soldier to die in the war in Afghanistan this year.

Laningham was born Sept. 1, 1988, in Greenfield, Mass., but spent much of his life in Zapata, near the Texas-Mexico border. Laningham graduated from Zapata High School in 2006 and wanted to enter the military, but his mother persuaded him to attend college first. After spending two years at Texas A&M International University studying music, Laningham's heart returned to his original choice.

Cantú said she was afraid for her son but also proud of him for taking a stand to pursue his dream by joining the Army in November 2009. “He told me, ‘Mom, I think I'm going to be a lifer (in the Army),'” said Cantú of her son, who had aspirations of becoming an Army Ranger.

Laningham's wife, Stephanie Armendariz, also serves in the military.

“When I went to go see him off for his deployment, he said, ‘If anything happens to me, I don't want you to cry because I'm doing what I want to do. I'm doing something that I love,'” said Cantú through tears.

Funeral plans have not been finalized for Laningham yet, because the family doesn’t know when his body will arrive in Texas, but Flores said the school will be ready to assist if asked.

"I’m sure we can find someone to play taps for him," he said.

From Pfc. Laningham's Aunt Melissa:

PFC Ira Benjamin "Ben" Laningham IV is survived by his wife, Stephanie Laningham; his mother and father, Norma and ENRIQUE Cantú; and his three siblings, PVT Joseph Eleazar Cantú, Enrique Elidén Cantú, and Amanda Raquel Cantú...of Zapata, TX...
And of his PROUD grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends!

Army Pfc. Ira B. Laningham IV was killed in action on 1/07/11

Army Spc. Ethan C. Hardin

Remember Our Heroes

Army Spc. Ethan C. Hardin, 25, of Fayetteville, Ark.

Spc. Hardin was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Polk, La.; died Jan. 7, 2011 of wounds suffered in Logar province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device and small-arms fire. Also killed was Army Pfc. Ira B. Laningham.

Spc. Hardin joined the U.S. Army in January 2006 and after completing training was stationed at Fort Irwin, California and in Germany before arriving to Fort Polk in March 2010. Hardin previously deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from November 2008 through October 2009.

Hardin's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, ,Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, NATO Medal and the Combat Infantryman Badge.

Senator Mark Pryor made the following statement on the death of U.S. Army Specialist Ethan C. Hardin from Fayetteville, AR.

"Today I join all Arkansans in extending my heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of U.S. Army Specialist Ethan C. Hardin, who made the ultimate sacrifice defending our country. Specialist Hardin was deployed in Logar Province, Afghanistan, and was dedicated to fighting terrorism and keeping our nation safe. Specialist Hardin's patriotism and courage make him a true American hero.

My thoughts and prayers are with Specialist Hardin's loved ones during this difficult time. Specialist Hardin had the greatest love for his country, and his country will always remember his sacrifice and service."

No statements have been released by the family. They have requested privacy during their time of grief and loss.

Governor Bebee Governor Beebe has ordered state flags to fly at half-staff through Wednesday in honor of Spec. Ethan C. Hardin.

Spc. Hardin is survived by his parents, Thomas and Cecelia Hardin, a brother, Paul D. Hardin, 23 and a sister, Adriel H. Wiggins of Springdale, AR.

Army Spc. Ethan C. Hardin was killed in action on 1/07/11.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Army SSgt Kristina R. Willis

Remember Our Heroes

Army SSgt Kristina R. Willis, 32, of Radcliff, KY passed away Thursday, January 6, 2011 at Norton Suburban Hospital, Louisville, KY after a long battle with Leukemia caused by the exposure to burn pits in Iraq.

SSgt Willis was a member of the Massachusetts Business Womens Club.

She was preceded in death by: Her paternal grandfather, John C. Willis

Survivors include: 2 children, Trent Sutton, Hailey Sutton both of Massachusetts; Her parents, John Drew & Patty Willis of Radcliff, KY; 1 brother, Robbie Willis & his wife Marie of Michigan; 1 sister, Jeannette Bogle & her fiancée Randy Brown of Rineyville, KY; maternal grandparents, Audrey Wilson, Kenneth Wilson both of Michigan; a paternal grandmother, Lucille Willis of Michigan; several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and extended family.

Funeral services will be held at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, January 11, 2011 from the chapel of Coffey & Chism Funeral Home, Vine Grove, KY with Chaplain Major Jim Boyle officiating. Burial will follow at the Kentucky Veterans Cemetery Central, Radcliff, KY with military honors.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Army Sgt. Eric M. Nettleton

Remember Our Heroes

Army Sgt. Eric M. Nettleton, 26, of Wichita, Kan.

Sgt. Nettleton was assigned to 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany; died Jan. 5, 2011 in Tarin Kowt, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered in Dehjawz-e Hasanzay when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device.

From high school sweetheart to devoted husband
By Deb Gruver
The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle via AP

WICHITA, Kan. — Ashley Nettleton clutched her husband’s dog tag in her right hand Sunday, her body shaking, her voice cracking.

She recalled the first time she met Eric Nettleton, a Wichita native who died Jan. 5 while serving in Afghanistan.

They were at a high school football game, and a mutual friend had been wanting to introduce them.

At the time, he was shy, and he asked his best friend, “What if she doesn’t like me?” Ashley Nettleton said.

But she told their friend to send Eric down, that she wanted to meet him.

There was an “instant connection,” Ashley Nettleton said. So much so that her mother turned to her and told her that Eric would be the man she would someday marry.

“I told her that she was crazy,” Ashley Nettleton recalled.

But years later — Dec. 23, 2009 — they did marry, surrounded by family and friends at the Sedgwick County Courthouse.

They were “like magnets,” Ashley Nettleton said, always connected, no matter how far apart.

Army Sgt. Eric Nettleton, 26, died in Dehjawz-e Hasanzay, Afghanistan. He was killed while on foot patrol after an improvised explosive device detonated.

His wife, parents, siblings and in-laws met with media at All Saints Catholic Church on Jan. 9 to remember Nettleton and also to pay respect to those serving in the military.

“My heart is aching, but I know I have to be strong for him and his soldiers, and his family and mine,” Ashley Nettleton said.

She asked those in the community to keep “your thoughts and prayers with those soldiers.”

She called her husband a “true American hero” who always had a smile on his face.

She and his family last saw Nettleton during a mid-tour break around Thanksgiving. With her still in Germany — where his unit was originally stationed — and him in the Middle East, they had talked about where to go for the break and decided it was important to come home to Wichita because his brother Clayton also was deployed overseas.

During the break, they went to Las Vegas, something they had always talked about doing together.

Sandy Nettleton, Nettleton’s mother, said she met her son at the airport when he arrived in Wichita because Ashley Nettleton was still on her way back to the United States.

She watched as people from his flight started walking down the hallway at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport. Suddenly, she saw his head poke around the side of someone in front of him who was taller.

“Then he ran up to me and grabbed me,” she said.

Nettleton grew up in the same south Wichita house where his parents have lived for 30 years. He attended All Saints Catholic School and Hamilton Middle School and graduated from Wichita West in 2003.

The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks inspired him to join the Army, said Clayton Nettleton, who serves in the Air Force.

“It just seemed like he was born for the Army,” Clayton Nettleton said.

Nettleton was the gung-ho type and liked to impersonate Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo,” his brother said.

He was the “luckiest fisherman,” his father, James, said.

“Eric could always catch something,” he said. “He could catch walleye out of the Arkansas River in the middle of August.”

Nettleton attended basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., and then went through airborne school. He was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, N.C.

He later deployed to Afghanistan to guard the country’s first elections, his brother said. When he returned home, he was assigned to West Point as a member of the honor and color guards.

Nettleton then requested to be stationed at Fort Riley to be closer to home. In September 2008, he deployed to Iraq with the Big Red 1, the 1st Infantry Division, and returned to Kansas in September 2009.

While he was home, he and his wife married. After a honeymoon in New York City, he was stationed in Germany with the Dragoon War Eagles 1st Squad, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon.

Clayton Nettleton said his brother signed a waiver to be deployed early to Afghanistan so he could be with his squad and served with the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment from June until his death.

No funeral arrangements have been made yet, but the family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Wounded Warriors Project, the Fisher House Foundation and the Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation planned for Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park.

Sandy Nettleton said it’s important for the country to remember that those serving overseas willingly risk their lives.

“We need to not forget that,” she said.

Army Sgt. Eric M. Nettleton was killed in action on 1/05/11